During 2022 Sodexo’s team, led by Catering manager, Belinda Smith, organised a series of fundraising activities for the Healing Little Hearts charity. Founded by Dr Sanjiv Nichani OBE, a consultant paediatrician at Leicester Children’s Hospital for 26 years, the charity began its work in India, has expanded its reach year on year, and is now reportedly the UK’s busiest children’s heart charity.
On 10 December last year, Dr Nichani and a team including surgeon Professor Massimo Caputo from Bristol Royal Hospital for Children travelled to An-Najah University Hospital to carry out ‘life-saving heart surgery’ on five Palestinian children aged between 19 months and 10 years over five days. Three of the operations had never been performed in the region before. The local surgical and medical team supported the operations, with the experience providing them with valuable training and experience.
Dr Nichani said: “There are an estimated one million babies and children dying every year from untreated heart disease – more than double the number dying from malaria. It is completely treatable, and this mortality rate is simply due to the lack of training and facilities available. By comparison, in the UK 6,000 babies and children require heart surgery every year, and all successfully have surgery, with a survival rate of 98-99%.”
“It costs around £700 per child to fund a life-saving heart procedure,” continued Dr Nichani. “For some people that is a weekend away in London, yet et this amount can give a child a new lease of life. We rely solely on public awareness, donations, and fundraising. Support from organisations like Sodexo and passionate individuals like Belinda is so important, and we’re incredibly grateful for this.”
Belinda Smith said: “It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the level of determination of Dr Nichani and his team, and the impact the charity has had. It is wonderful to know we are making a contribution. I want to help be a voice for Healing Little Hearts and raise awareness. It’s something I love to do.”
Pictured are Paediatric doctor, Abhishek Oswal (left), and Cardiology registrar, Jack Gibb, with one of the Palestinian children who had life-saving heart surgery.